Game Info:

The Forest of Doom
Developed by: Tin Man Games
Published by: Tin Man Games
Released: October 30, 2014
Available on: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac (reviewed), Linux
Number of players: 1
Price: $9.99

~~~ 1 ~~~

You shiver as you look around the small Idaho town. Not for the first time you ask yourself why you came to this location, but then you remind yourself that the being you are about to meet has the information you seek. The building ahead of you is a small shack, nestled among some trees. A wisp of smoke rises from a metal chimney. You reach out and knock on the wooden door.

After a moment, the door opens. The figure beyond stands six feet tall, and covered in green scales. He regards you with slitted, yellow eyes. Inexplicably, the figure wears a purple robe adorned with yellow smiley faces and a pair of pajama pants with "Angry Bird" characters. He blinks. "Can I help you?" he asks, his voice a deep baritone.

You clear your throat. "I understand you've recently visited the Forest of Doom."

The lizard-man blinks at you. "You've heard correctly," he said, his tone guarded. "Would you come in, please? It's cold outside." 

If you answer "Certainly!" go to section 18

If you say "Um... no thank you. I think I'll be going now," go to section 200

~~~ 9 ~~~

The breading on the meat is crispy, but the meat has a gamey flavor. The sauce seems to be some sort of mustard, with a sweet and surprisingly spicy flavor. 

Go to section 151.

~~~ 18 ~~~ 

You follow him in, stepping out of the way as a brown tabby cat dashes past you and into the open air. The room beyond is lined with bookshelves, each one crammed with a variety of hardbacks, paperbacks, scrolls and notebooks. A red candle flickers from one shelf, casting the room in flickering shadows. There are a few pictures on the walls, and two other doors lead from this room into other portions of the house. The lizard-man motions to a chair next to a warm, crackling fire. He brings you a cup of cocoa with small white marshmallows floating at the top. With a sigh, he sits in a chair nearby, facing you. "What would you like to know?"

"What can you tell me about the history of the Forest of Doom?" Go to section 25.

"How is the game played?" Go to section 64.

~~~ 25 ~~~

"I have been to the Forest of Doom recently," he admits. "But it hasn't been my first time. You see, many years ago, in the 1980s, there was a book series known as 'Choose Your Own Adventure.' In these books, the reader wouldn't read the book straight through, but would be asked to make choices as he or she went along. The reader would have to turn to different pages to continue the story. There were many game endings in the story, and a reader would have to read the book several times, making different choices each time, in order to read all the different stories and to find the 'best' ending.

"The series spawned a host of imitators, but one of the most successful were called Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. They were created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who also founded Games Workshop, as you probably know. But they incorporated role-playing elements into their books, and in addition to having to make choices, they would have to roll dice to combat some of the creatures their character encountered in the stories as well. The books received quite the following. My favorite was 'Deathtrap Dungeon,' but there were quite a few people who said 'The Forest of Doom' was the best one to come from the series."

The lizardman smiles. "I remember spending countless hours pouring over my Fighting Fantasy books, drawing up maps and trying to find the best routes to go through each one. Some of those books were fiendishly difficult. I even dabbled in trying to create my own books in that same style. Never published any of them, of course." 

He rises and places another piece of wood on the fire. It crackles and pops invitingly. With a sigh, he sits in the chair again. "When I found out that an effort was made to digitize the books, I was quite curious as to what the results would be. Others have attempted to adapt the various books into video game format, of course. This is the first one that I've heard of that made it to Steam, however. It looks like the publisher, Tin Man Games, also have done an adaptation of another Fighting Fantasy book called 'Appointment With F.E.A.R.', but I haven't tried that one yet."

"How is the game played?" Go to section 64.

"Is there anything I should be concerned about if I go there?" Go to section 99.

~~~ 64 ~~~

The lizard-man chuckles. "Listen to me prattling on. Let's talk about the game itself, shall we? 'The Forest of Doom' chronicles the adventures of the reader, who is thrust into the position of a sellsword. While camping outside Darkwood Forest, a dying dwarf stumbles into the firelight. The dwarf relates a tale of trying to bring a dwarven relic to a king who is visiting Stonebridge on the other side of the forest. The relic was stolen by goblins, who separated the warhammer into two parts before vanishing into the woods. The player is given the job of tracking down the pieces. After a visit to the wizard Yaztromo, where the player can purchase items that may be helpful on the journey, the player can choose what paths to take as he or she heads through the forest.

"The player has three statistics, which are determined by rolling six-sided dice. One is skill, which is mainly used for combat strength. The second is stamina, which is essentially the character's hit points. If those run out, the game is immediately over. The final attribute is luck. The player will be asked to 'test their luck' repeatedly over the course of the book. The player has to throw two six-sided dice, and if the roll is lower than the character's current luck score, they are considered lucky. If it is above the current score, then they are unlucky and must suffer various consequences, which may also include an instant game over. After each time the luck is tested, the luck score is reduced by one. So the more luck is used, the more likely it is that the player's luck will run out.

"Combat is determined quite simply. The player and the opponent both throw two six-sided dice and add the results to their skill score. Whoever has the lower result loses two points of stamina. If the result is a tie, then neither side takes damage. Combat continues in this fashion until one side runs out of stamina, which means death. The player can choose to 'test their luck' after each combat round to either do an additional point of damage to a foe, or subtract one point that they have taken, but keep in mind what I said earlier about using up too many luck points! The player could run out when they need the points the most.

"The rest of the book plays out in much the same way as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novel. The player is confronted with a decision and has to choose what number to turn to, quite a lot like this game review. On the computer, this is done simply by clicking on the small gemstone next to the choices available. With two of the difficulty modes, any options not available will be grayed out. But we can get to that in a moment."

The lizard-man rises. "I'm feeling a bit hungry. Are you up for a snack?" He stands and walks through a door, which gives you a chance to look at some of the books on the shelves. Most of them are fiction, with fantasy, science fiction and mystery mixed together. A couple shelves seem to focus on gardening and herbalism, and one shelf contains books on midwifery. Within a few moments, the lizard-man returns with a large plate. Two small bowls containing a yellow substance are on the platter, along with several pieces of some sort of fried meat. He sets the platter on a table between you, with one of the yellow bowls near your hands. He picks up one of the pieces of meat, dips into the yellow sauce, and takes a bite with his pointed teeth.

If you would like to politely try some of the food, go to section 9.

If you decline, go to section 151.

The Forest of Doom

Strong Points: Nostalgic fun; options make it easy to read for those with poor vision
Weak Points: Short game; some graphic glitches
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence

~~~ 53 ~~~

"Ah, the different options of the game. Three different playstyles are offered. The default one is called 'Adventurer Mode,' and functions pretty much in the way I've described. You also will have the options to add bookmarks so you can refer to past sections. A more difficult mode, called 'Hardcore' mode, reduces the number of bookmarks and handicaps your skill points slightly. The third option, called 'Free Read' allows you to play the game almost as if you were actually reading the game book. You can select options that are normally greyed out, you can flip back and change your mind about certain decisions if you don't like the results, and you also can fill up your stamina any time you want to. In other words, you can go ahead and cheat freely however and whenever you want. It's a fun choice to be able to experience the book in a fashion similar to the original, but for some reason, you can still obtain a number of achievements in this form, too. If someone really wanted to, they could cheat to get a good portion of the game unlocked.

"Not that it's terribly necessary, though. It doesn't take many playthroughs before the one path to the winning ending becomes apparent. In fact, even on hardcore mode, the game can be completed with only one necessary battle. Once the proper solution is found, it's an easy technique to memorize the proper steps in order to win, no matter what the starting stats are. Those gamers who aren't too keen on reading or hate cutscenes would probably loathe this game as well. There isn't a whole lot of on-screen action, other than bouncing dice. It relies on the user to use more of their imagination to immerse themselves in the game. Sadly, many of the younger players nowadays likely wouldn't have the patience to play 'old-school' approaches like these." 

The conversation is interrupted as the door opens again. A slender figure enters, with long, pointed ears and orange fur. The woman looks at you with her feline features, her orange eyes wide with surprise.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize you had guests."

The lizard-man waves a clawed hand dismissively. "It's all right, dear. Just someone with questions about one of the games I've played."

The cat-woman nods. "All right. Don't let me stop you. Morrigan is about to have her kid, and I need to be there to help." She goes to one of the shelves and pulls off two books on home births. Almost as an afterthought, she takes an additional book about taking care of goats. She turns and slips out of the room. The lizard-man leans forward conspiratorially.

"Sometimes I find it best not to ask. What else would you like to know?" 

"I think that's enough for now. Thank you for your time!" Go to section 77.

"Are you a Silurian?" Go to section 125

"Are there any other problems with the game?" Go to section 99.

~~~ 77 ~~~

He gets out of the chair and picks up an empty platter. "All in all, I'd say the game is a fun diversion for those looking for the historical aspects of the genre, or who are feeling nostalgic. But the price of ten dollars seems to me a bit steep -- especially if you can find the same book in physical format for a fraction of the price on eBay or a used bookstore. But, to each their own."

The lizard-man smiles. "I've taken enough of your time. It has been a pleasure having you here. I wish you luck on your adventures!"

Go to section 200.

The Forest of Doom
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 13/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 79%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

~~~ 99 ~~~

The lizard-man pauses to look at a portrait on the wall. You follow his gaze to see a picture of a man wearing white robes. He has long, brown hair and a beard, and seems to be reaching out invitingly. "There isn't too much to alarm a God-fearing Christian in the game. One picture depicts a male barbarian wearing little but a loincloth, and there is one catwoman who appears nude, but is completely covered in fur so there's nothing tantalizing to be seen. Although there is plenty of implications of violence, there are no depictions of gore or blood, aside from a bit on the title words. The language is fine, and there's only one instance of undead that appears in the book. There is magic, but the majority of it is performed by other beings the character encounters. The character can use magic and potions and the like, but is incapable of casting spells. For the most part, I think it's fine. I would certainly let my own hatchlings play it."

"What can you tell me about the look of the game?" Go to section 113.

"I think it is time I were going. Do you have any final thoughts about the Forest of Doom?" Go to section 77.

~~~ 113 ~~~

"The graphics of the game are, for the most part, quite pleasant. The original illustrations and cover art are present in the game, and the book can be read in two formats -- a stylized form which is the default, and a black-and-white version which tries to capture the feel of the original game. There also are three different fonts to choose from and the font size can be increased -- a very nice option for some of us who have played these game books for a very long time! Sometimes the print in those books is so small, and it's pleasant to have the opportunity to read it easier. 

"However, the graphics aren't perfect. The animated dice seem to have been somewhat sloppy in their construction. Sometimes one die will fall partially within another, and I've seen it happen where they bounce unusually against the invisible border or each other. The bizarre antics of the dice detract from the immersion experience, unfortunately. The sound effects are very nice, though, and the music is pleasant and dramatic as well, although it can get repetitious before too long." 

"I have also encountered an interesting bug when you try to go back a page -- especially after combat. Sometimes the book will skip back several pages, instead. It seems to be sporadic, but it can be annoying. I'm not sure what causes it, but it's something that probably should have been found before the game was released."

"Are there any concerns you've had with the game from a moral perspective?" Go to section 99

"I think I've learned enough. Thank you for your time!" Go to section 77.

~~~ 125 ~~~

The lizard-man gives you a level stare. "I'm actually more of an Argonian, if you must know," he growls. You get the impression that this is not a topic he wishes to pursue.

"Can you tell me about your history with the game?" Go to section 25.

"How does the game look and sound?" Go to section 113.

~~~ 151 ~~~

The lizard-man chuckles at your reaction. "That's quite all right. Mountain rat is more of an acquired taste, really." He takes another bite and chews thoughtfully. "What shall we discuss now?"

"Tell me more about the game options." Go to section 53.

"How does the game look and sound?" Go to section 113.

~~~ 200 ~~~

You leave the small house and brace yourself against the cold Idaho air. You walk down the stone path to your vehicle. You turn to look back, and stare. The small house has, somehow, disappeared. You get into your car, feeling a bit wiser, and more cautious. You wonder if you are prepared to face the dangers of Darkwood Forest... or perhaps if it would be more worthwhile to seek out adventure through other avenues.

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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